New I.C. Light Pittsburgh Pirates Collector Cans

PIRATES-IC-LICGHT-IRON-CITY-RETRO-CANS-BRANDMILLWith the Pirates home opener less than 30 days away, fans can do a little pre-season training of their own!

Our client Pittsburgh Brewing Company,  just released the first of three Pittsburgh Pirates-themed I.C. Light Collector Series Beer Cans – the “Retro – Handsome Jolly Roger” can is on sale now!

For more details, click this link to check out our story on NBC affiliate WPXI-TV!


15 Marketing Lessons of St. Patrick’s Day

As a 50 percenter of Irish blood and a serial marketing professional, I thought I’d offer you dear reader, my 15 Marketing Lessons of St. Patrick’s Day to help you find your little pot ‘o gold at the end of a rainbow!

And, I’ll offer them quickly because I shouldn’t even be working this hard today as I’m 17 days away from – and preparing for – St. Patrick’s Day which is one of my many “high holy days” – and there’s a Guinness pint with my name of it at my favorite Pittsburgh Irish pub (Riley’s Pour House) and it’s getting warm! So here you go!

1. Green Marketing Lesson One – Making Money. Always keep money (making it or saving it) front and center of any marketing campaign. If you know anything about the Irish (and I do growing up in a large extended family), the majority have experienced challenging economic times and know the value of a dollar. So, incorporating zero based budgeting into your marketing processes will help you become more creative and help you do a lot more for less. 

2. Green Marketing Lesson Two – Sustainability. These days when you hear brands talk about sustainability, it’s related to the environment, but the basic pure definition of sustainability is “the capacity to endure.” Using the same color in your marketing communications reinforces your brand, makes your marketing work harder for you and enables your marketing to endure.

3. Green Marketing Lesson Two – Color. Design and color can help you communicate a great deal. Red – hot, stop; Blue – cool. etc., Keep in mind that all colors also come in a great deal of shades so don’t be boring and predictable.  Green has about 50 unique shades.

4. Create Multi-Sensory Emotional Appeals (e.g., appeal to people’s five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). In a prior post about, “Marketing with Sound,” I discussed the awesome power of sound, but you should also consider all of the ways you can appeal to your customer’s five senses. St. Patrick’s Day appeals them all with color, strong visuals of parades, people having fun; taste of ethnic foods like corned beef and cabbage and drink (pints of Guinness and shots of Jameson) etc.,

5. Appeal to One’s Ethnic Heritage. There’s nothing wrong with appealing to people’s ethnic heritage – net, different strokes for different folks.  In fact, it’s a growing and popular strategy due to our mobile society, immigration, single parent households etc.

Some of this strategy’s keys to success include knowing your market well, being aware of unique cultural nuances, being respectful etc.  Disney’s Epcot Theme Park’s World Showcase is a great example of ethnic marketing, but Denny’s Restaurants’ old Pancake promotion is not.

6. Be Inclusive with Your Marketing. As much of an Irish heritage appeal the holiday provides, St. Patrick’s Day is all-inclusive and welcomes everyone to celebrate – everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

7. Special Event/Thematic/Celebration/Holiday Marketing. Giving a unique thematic association to your marketing messages makes it easier for your customers to understand you and more immediately recognize you too. Tie-ing in to a major holiday celebration gives your promotion authenticity and a “reason why” you’re holding a sales event.

8. Limited Time Appeal.
Having a hard date against a campaign creates urgency, excitement and traffic. Pretty obvious statement, but many marketers leave far too many campaigns without a clear end date and a sense of urgent appeal.

9. Spokesperson/figurehead/celebrity/image appeal. Having a Saint as your celebrity figurehead ain’t too shabby, but it’s the consistency of using the same appealing celebrity with a unique story is what works.

10. Iconic Marketing – Shamrock – brand, sell, profit. Mickey Mouse’s Ears, Ronald McDonald’s big red shoes, McDonald’s Arches and more.

Shamrocks do the same for today’s holiday – it’s the day’s badge of honor and identification. What’s your badge ID?

11. Rule of Threes. Legend has it that St. Patrick used the common Shamrock to teach the Celtic Pagans about the unique Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – 3 in 1 Godhead.

However, the “rule of three” symbolism in the good man’s teaching is relevant today as well because people’s minds are noisy and limited. Using the rule of three enables you to get them to remember you and buy-in a presentation or product mix selection. Small, medium, large; gold, silver, bronze; 3 bears; 3 blind mice; 3 Stooges (see more examples/proof here) – trust me – the rule of three rocks.

12. Be Positive. You won’t find a more positive group of people that the Irish. Despite all of their “Troubles” who else tells you that you can find a pot ‘o gold at the end of a rainbow? At Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade this past Saturday, people throughout the day referred to the cold constant rain as nothing more, “a little Irish mist!”

13. Be Nice. You’d be hard pressed to find a nicer bunch of people than the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day too.

14. Have fun and don’t take yourself so seriously. In this age of “political correctness” the Irish are for the most part a happy and fun bunch and most Irish demeaning jokes bounce of them like water on a duck.

15. Plan Your Luck by Working Hard. In my opinion, “the luck of the Irish” is based on hard work – simple as that. You’ve probably heard the saying, the harder you work the luckier you get!” Well, its true. The majority of Irish are no strangers to hard work and I believe – all things being equal – people that work harder and smarter than their peers will meet with more profitable success in a shorter period of time.

Got to run, my pint is getting warm.

Slan (Gaelic for “farewell for now”)!


10 Ps of Marketing

Throughout my career, I’ve used the original four (4) Ps (Product, Price, Place (Distribution), Promotion) with great success and the formula works quite well to this day.

However, over the last 10 years, I’ve added a few more Ps to my list.  These additional Ps have helped me provide a more thorough Marketing Audit and effective marketing mix. The 10 Ps have uncovered additional sales building opportunities and cost savings for our brands.

Here is my entire list of 10 Ps and a few related questions (certainly not an exhaustive list) to ask of your brand. Good luck with your answers!

10 Ps of Marketing

  1. Product – Discuss and review needs and opportunities pertaining to design, technology, usefulness, convenience, value, quality, packaging, branding, sizing etc.
  2. Price – Discuss price strategies such as cost-plus, loss leader and more. See ‘How to Get Your Pricing Right.’ And, discuss potential cost increases (cost of goods, labor, insurance, taxes) and sales impact.
  3. Place – Discuss and review needs and opportunities with regard to retail operations, wholesale, mail order, internet, direct sales, multi-channel, USA vs. Europe, headquarters etc.
  4. Promotion – Review special offers, BOGOs, advertising, endorsements, direct marketing, free gifts, Groupon etc. See ‘Think and Plan for Christmas in July.’
  5. Promise – Discuss and review whether or not you’re truly delivering on a unique brand promise.  And, if you don’t even have one – get one.
  6. Positioning – Discuss and review ways in which your customers position you (it’s all about them and their beliefs not yours), where you want to be positioned (e.g., low cost provider) and plans to get there.
  7. People – Review needs and opportunities regarding culture, employees, interns, management, customer service etc.
  8. Performance (Proof) – Discuss and review ways you can prove your brand promise. Are you using testimonials, have you won meaningful awards. Success begs Trust – how to you prove your trustworthiness?
  9. Process – Discuss and review checklists and critical paths of making things, delivering things, hiring people.  Look for ways to speed up processes and decrease error rates.
  10. POW – Discuss and review unique ways to surprise and delight customers that make you special in their eyes. Work to bulletproof your dramatic difference.

I hope you find this exercise helpful in building your brand and helping you to uncover sales building and cost savings opportunities!

Good luck!


How to Think and Plan for Christmas in July

Did you notice the number of brands that celebrated promotions this month with a “Christmas in July’ theme?

Do you wish you planned earlier to tie-in to the Olympics in some way (e.g., hold an Olympic Sales Contest for your team) after seeing the barrage of Olympian marketing to date?

If you didn’t take advantage of seasonal sales building opportunities like these, you lack a marketing plan that fails to take advantage of high impact sales events that give customers a reason to buy from you today! And, you’re leaving a lot of sales for your competitors to easily grab.

Seasonal, holiday and special occasion marketing is a profitable marketing strategy. And, here are just a few of the reasons why it’s so successful.

10 Reasons Why Seasonal, Holiday and Special Occasion Marketing is a Profitable Strategy

  1. It Generates Awareness & Excitement. There’s more awareness around these key days/months and generates more excitement.
  2. It’s Message is Urgent, Limited and Motivating. There’s a bigger sense of urgency with limited time offers.
  3. It’s Creates Fond Emotional Connections. Holiday events are emotional for customers as they think of family and younger days and their emotions trigger sales opportunities.
  4. Everyone’s Ready for It – It’s Expected. People are more ‘ready-to-buy’ at these times, they tend spend more too.
  5. It Takes Full Advantage of Gift Giving Time Periods. Lots of people buy gifts at these times, they’re more concerned about quality vs. price.
  6. It’s Easier to Persuade People to Buy. In some cases, customers NEED to buy, so they’re easier to persuade.
  7. It’s Familiar Old School Marketing. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Traditional holiday celebration marketing techniques work great.
  8. It Provides Ample Opportunities to Showcase and Sell Variety.  You don’t have to sell just holiday or seasonal themed merchandise.  You can sell anything.
  9. It Gives Brands a Perfectly Good Reason ‘Why’ to Promote and for Customers to Buy. Theming promotional offers gives a ‘reason why’ for you deal and is not as harsh to your brand as non-themed discounted offers. Holiday and seasonal deals are expected.
  10. It’s So Darn Easy to Plan & Budget. Seasonal sales opportunities and Holidays occur nearly the same time every year which makes it easy to plan and budget. Mother’s Day is always on Mother’s Day right? Don’t forget to schedule an anniversary or birthday event for your business!

Not to rub salt in your marketing wound (but just to accentuate the point), but here are potentially a few more July sales building opportunities you probably missed such as Canada Day on the 2nd,  America’s Independence Day on the 4th, Bastille Day on the 14th, Get to Know Your Customers Day on the 19th, Parent’s Day on the 22nd, or these special occasions American Freedom Week – July 4 – 10, Black Family Month, Make a Difference to Children Month, Social Wellness Month, Family Reunion Month, National Black Family Month and National Independent Retailers Month.

However, there are a lot more you can consider throughout year-end and into 2013. My favorite reference book is Chase’s Calendar of Events – I get a new one every year in 4th quarter.

Plus, there are several other good services – especially online such as Holiday Insights, Brownie Locks and several more to satisfy the needs of niche markets and industries. And, here are 70 sales building ideas (holiday marketing tie-in opportunities) to consider through year-end.

70 Sales Building Ideas to Consider Through Year-End

1 – Girlfriend’s Day
1 – US Air Force Day
4 – Single Working Women’s Day
5 – Friendship Day
5 – National Kids’ Day
15 – Best Friends Day
19 – National Aviation Day
21 – Senior Citizen’s Day
Simplify Your Life Week – 1-7
Rock For Life Week – 4-7
Family Fun Month
Romance Awareness Month
Black Business Month
What Will Be Your Legacy Month

3 – Labor Day
9 – National Grandparent’s Day
11 – Patriot Day
17 – Rosh Hashanah
21 – International Day of Peace
22 – First Day of Autumn
22 – Business Women’s Day
25 – Yom Kippur
25 – World Pasta Day
28 – National Good Neighbor Day
29 – National Coffee Day
Baby Safety Month
College Savings Month
Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. – Oct.)
People Skills Month
Self-Awareness Month
Self-Improvement Month

1 – Child Health Day
4 – Improve Your Office Day
5 – National Diversity Day
8 – National Children’s Day
8 – Columbus Day
16 – National Boss Day
20 – Sweetest Day
25 – World Pasta Day
28 – Mother-in-Law Day
31 – Halloween
Financial Planning Week – 1-7
National Customer Service Week – 1-5
Crime Prevention Month
German-American Heritage Month (Oktoberfest)
Polish-American Heritage Month
Positive Attitude Month
Strategic Planning Month
Work & Family Month
Financial Planning Month
Italian-American Heritage Month
Tackling Hunger Month
Breast Cancer Awareness Month

1 – All Saints’ Day
8 – Election Day
11 – Veteran’s Day
13 – World Kindness Day
17 – World Peace Day
22 – Thanksgiving
23 – Black Friday
24 – Small Business Saturday
26 – Cyber Monday
National Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week – 11-17
National Family Week – 18-24
National Write A Business Plan Month
National Adoption Month
Military Family Appreciation Month

9 – Hanukkah Begins
21- Humbug Day
22 – First Day of Winter
25 – Christmas

As a small businessman, I know how overwhelmed small business owners are with daily activities.

So, what’s the old saying about, “How do you eat an elephant?’ One bite at a time!

With a myriad of marketing activities to consider, your best first step is to create a marketing calendar with a foundation that is holiday and seasonally based.

Believe me, it’s always easier and more profitable to drive natural, seasonal sales peaks higher than it is to lift a valley. bet your hard earned money on it. I guarantee it.

Please note: When you research the marketing resources noted above, you’ll see that there are a ton of promotional themes you can choose from, but don’t get overwhelmed by the huge selection. Plan far in advance, select a few (net – a majority of ideas from a source like Chase’s won’t apply to your business), but execute them well.

In addition, there are lots of ways you can celebrate and drive consumer excitement such as:

  • Offering product discounts
  • Offering a BOGO – Buy one get one free or at half price
  • Buy something and get a free gift
  • Offer holiday themed merchandise or services at full price or promotional price
  • And more…

Please use the remaining days of July NOW to plan for Christmas – you’ll start seeing merchandise in stores in September – and get started now to plan the rest of your 2012 seasonal and holiday marketing calendar and 2013 too.

You’ll be happy you did.


Target’s Super Black Friday Ad Campaign

Kudos to Target and its Ad Agency Weiden + Kennedy for their spot on Black Friday advertising campaign featuring this overly excited and anxious shopping FANatic.

And, file this effort in my “Darn I Wish I Did This Ad Campaign” folder.

Target is using 5 spots from last year (why not – who says an old great campaign can’t be re-engaged?) combined with another 30 online.  And, he talent casting, honest copy, imagery, sound and smart campaign integration (see all 35 videos) off and online is simply brilliant and off the charts.

It’s a great example of how ad campaigns should be run. Read Adweek’s take on it here.


Colussy Chevrolet’s Place in Americana

Chevrolet will be kicking off a huge celebration in early November for its 100th Anniversary.

And, what many people do not know is Pittsburgh’s unique role in Chevrolet’s history courtesy of the Colussy family.

Check out this story by Teresa Lindeman which we earned for our newest client Colussy Chevrolet on the front page of today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Business Section – Colussy Chevrolet, A Place in Americana.

Chevy Runs Deep In Pittsburgh, PA

Congratulations to brothers Tim and Jon Colussy who now lead the third generation ownership of Colussy Chevrolet in Bridgeville, PA for their well deserved recognition. Chevrolet’s oldest dealership in America is now in its 93rd year of operation since 1918.

It’s true when they say that Chevy runs deep. Chevy runs deep in Pittsburgh, PA and a little deeper in Bridgeville, PA.

P.S.: Here is the first Road We’re On’ video from NYC’s Mother ad agency in preparation for Chevrolet’s 100th anniversary.  It’s the first in a series and features Bridgeville, PA and Colussy Chevrolet.  Enjoy – it’s excellent.


Be Wary of Vulgar Marketing

Back in December of 2009, Nicorette launched a $15 million integrated marketing campaign complete with a fictitious ‘Suckometer’ around the bold statement that, Nicorette makes quitting smoking suck less. In addition, it was the GlaxoSmithKline brand’s first foray into social media.

Nicorette Makes Quitting Suck Less Campaign

As a quick backgrounder, here are a few select statements from the Nicorette Website.

There’s no way around it, quitting sucks. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things you’ll do in life. That’s why quitting can be a challenge. To be successful, you need to overcome both your physical addiction to nicotine and your psychological addiction — the urge to repeat the same smoking routines every day, like smoking in the car and after meals. …Sure, quitting will always suck, but Nicorette makes quitting suck less.

Does Vulgar Marketing Work?

When the campaign launched, I thought it was a cheap, vulgar marketing effort and still do. The campaign is still running so, I wanted to see if it’s working. In short, I’m not exactly sure how the campaign is doing, but here are a few things I discovered.

There was a HCD Research/Mediacurves survey conducted in 2010 among 300 viewers of a new Nicorette gum ad and showed that nearly half of smokers (49%) were more likely to try to quit smoking after viewing the ad.  The majority of viewers (80%) felt the ad was extremely or somewhat effective, and more than one-third of smokers (34%) said that they would be more likely to use Nicorette gum to help them quit their smoking addiction.

The numbers are fine, but we all know that people don’t always do what they say they’re going to do. So, I’m not convinced of the strategy.

Does Nicotine Replacement Gum Work?

I’m not sure if the gum works, but I’d bet that they sold a ton of it. The thing is, even if you sell a ton of product, if it doesn’t work, what does that say about you and your brand long term? Without brand trust and integrity based on a positive experience what does the future hold for your brand?

This eHow article reports that…‘normally, there is only a 5 percent success rate of smokers quitting their habit for a full year (without the use of replacement products), which makes the success rate of Nicorette Gum between 7 and 8 percent. Not the best odds. …Of the top five “quit smoking methods,” not a single nicotine replacement gum made the list, including Nicorette Gum.’

Great Products Lead to Positive Word of Mouth Advertising

After 1.5 years and spending $15 million, Nicorette’s own Website only has one success story! Are you kidding me? If Nicorette Gum is such a great product, why aren’t there a ton of people in TV ads, on YouTube and Facebook raving about the product?

I’m always a bit leery of brands that spend a ton of money on marketing (and vulgar, uncivil advertising to boot) because let’s face it, if the product was so great, people would be spreading the word on their own. My advice would have been to take the $15 million and build a better product or service – one that truly works and adds value – customers will come, rave about you and spread your good word.

P.S.: Full disclosure: I’m in my late 40s, a nonsmoker and far from being a prude, however I am offended, not impressed or motivated to purchase by cheap, vulgar, uncivil and classless marketing. And, I firmly believe that if in fact Nicorette’s product is a super terrific one, they would have sold as much if not more product with raving customers who quit smoking once and for all. Net…they wouldn’t have had to ‘go there.’ Nor should you…ever!


Pirates Miss PNC Park Anniversary Tag

Your birthday.  Your spouse’s, kid’s, parent’s, grandparent’s, brother’s, sister’s etc., birthdays. Your wedding anniversary and/or your parent’s anniversary. The 4th of July – America’s anniversary. All big time events and occasions to celebrate right?

Well, as a ‘homer’ living in Pittsburgh, and as a professional marketer I’m baffled by the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates marketing team did absolutely nothing – zero – not a thing – this season to celebrate the 10th anniversary of PNC Park (a gift by the citizens of Pittsburgh), arguably the best ballpark in all of Major League Baseball.

Hey, but don’t take my word that the Pirates’ PNC Park is the best, check out this brief  ranking list of the best Major League Baseball ballparks by some of the ‘folks that really know’:

YELP ranks PNC Park first

Fox Sports ranks PNC Park first

ESPN ranks PNC Park first

Forbes ranks PNC Park third

Now, certainly you can argue that PNC Park might not be the best Park in all of Major League Baseball, but you’d have to agree that it’s at least in the Top 5.  And, even if PNC Park wasn’t ranked that high, why wouldn’t you still take advantage of the significance of the date and celebrate all season long?

In fact, the symbolism for a 10th year anniversary for the Pittsburgh Pirates is incredible too.  The symbol for the 10th year anniversary is aluminum or tin and here we have one of the greatest companies ever headquartered in Pittsburgh – ALCOA – the Aluminum Company of America (its Headquarters is only .19 miles or 44 seconds from PNC Park) and the world’s leading producer of aluminum! And the designated gemstone of a 10 year anniversary is the diamond…get the symbolism, baseball diamond?

You could also argue, that the Pirates didn’t have much to celebrate and/or remember over the past 10 years, but don’t we all have bad years? It doesn’t mean you forgo celebrating your birth!

We do a ton of hospitality marketing consulting and anyone in the business will tell you the profitable, sales building significance of celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries.

It’s sad and disappointing that the Pittsburgh Pirates missed the tag on the 10th anniversary of PNC Park. They would have hit the cover of the ball knocking it clear out of the Park and into the Allegheny River!

Don’t forget to step up to the plate and swing for the fences when your brand’s birthday/anniversary rolls around!


Don’t Waste Your Marketing Dollars

The famous merchant John Wanamaker (b-1839 – d-1922) is credited with saying, “I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.”

I’m sure he meant what he said over 100 years ago, but I’d bet if he was living today, he’d certainly would not be wasting 50 cents on the dollar with his ad campaigns with the various ways you can prove the impact of marketing investments.

The sad thing about Wanamaker’s quote is that marketers today continue to use it and hide behind it. See my Super Bowl Ad Blog rant from yesterday.

Speaking of quotes, I’d like to quote some troubling facts about the crisis in mass marketing per the book – Connected marketing: the viral buzz and word of mouth revolution edited by Justin Kirby and Paul Marsden — Oxford : Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006.

Here are just a handful…

  • 3000 Ads Reach People Daily
  • 256% Increase in TV Ad costs (CPM) over 10 Years
  • 117 of ‘02 Prime TV Spots = 80% of Adults – 3 in ‘65
  • 100% Increase Needed in Ad Spend to Add 1-2% in Sales
  • 84% of B2B Ad Campaigns  = Negative ROI
  • 54 cents = Ave. Return in Sales per $1.00 spent on Ads
  • 18% TV Ad Campaigns =  Positive ROI

And, here’s a few more…

  • 90% – People Who Can Skip TV Ads Do
  • 80% – DVRs w/Ad Skipping Tech 2008
  • 69% – Interested in Skip/Block Ad Tech
  • 95% – Failure Rate for New Product Intros
  • 65% – Are Bombarded w/Ads
  • 56% – Avoid Brands Who Over Promote
  • 14% – Trust Advertising

The book was published in 2006 and most likely researched and written over the prior few years making the data at least six years old.

So, do you think any Super Bowl ad last Sunday returned a profit on its $3 million dollar investment? If so, do you think they can prove it?

Now, can you see why these Super Bowl ads offend me as a marketing professional?


Super Bowl Ads Are a Waste of Money

As a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I certainly was disappointed with my team losing Super Bowl XLV.

However, I was more disgusted as a marketing professional when I viewed the number of lousy television commercials. What a waste of money, time and space.

When you consider the average Super Bowl commercial placement cost over $2 million and another high six figures to produce the spot (net about a $3 million investment per spot) do you really think that the majority of these so-called top brand marketers effectively took advantage of the highest rated Super Bowl ever?

Talk about opportunity lost!

Nielsen reported that Super Bowl XLV was the most viewed television show in history with a record breaking audience of 162.9 million viewers!  And, for the life of me, I cannot understand how some of these ads were approved to run.

Where’s the exciting new news? Where’s the compelling reason to buy? Where’s the interesting campaign launch? Where’s the accountability? Where’s another ETrade Baby Campaign for other products?

For me, I don’t buy into the argument about the “view buzz” metrics on YouTube. If brands think that “bigger is always better” and marketing is all about awareness and buzz, they’re way off track.

You want the awareness and buzz about your product or service to be about people having conversations such as, “Hey, did you try X? It sounds like an awesome product…let’s check it out!” I’d bet there weren’t many (if any) conversations like this happening during the big game.

Hey, I could put a dead body in the window of a restaurant and drive buzz and awareness, but I don’t think you’d want to eat there!

I can’t recall one ad that has or will influence me to inquire about, buy or refer their product. Not a one…can you?

And, if I hear one more person say that an ad is ‘cute’ or ‘funny’ without remembering the brand name I swear I’m going to choke on my Terrible Towel…much like my beloved Steelers did!

P.S.: Having said all I want to say about the total lack of accountability, campaignability and creativity (I subscribe to the old adage…’it’s only creative if it sells’) in this year’s Super Bowl commercials, I am looking forward to seeing where the Chrysler 200 heads with it’s Imported from Detroit effort. I am interested and hopeful it helps drive them business. It seems like an interesting platform to work from. But, what do I know, it ranked low on USA Today’s Ad Meter. Go figure.